Secrecy and criminality in the SFPD

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Police Chief George Gascon proved he can get tough on parties, but can he get tough on problem officers under his command?
Charles Russo

Today’s Chronicle unveils more problems at the scandal-plagued San Francisco Police Department, as well as the District Attorney’s Office, raising new questions about their commitment to public accountability and protecting civil liberties at a time when the SFPD is seeking more authority and asking for the public’s trust.

At issue are police officers with criminal histories and disciplinary records serious enough to warrant disclosure to the criminal defendants that they testify against in court, which the story indicates is more than 80 officers. Such disclosures have been a standard requirement for almost 40 years, but neither police nor prosecutors in San Francisco have been making them, a revelation that could overturn hundreds of felony convictions because of this official misconduct, the Chron reports.

That bombshell comes in the wake the SFPD’s crime lab scandal, in which lab technician Deborah Madden – herself a court witness with a criminal history that should have been disclosed to defense attorneys – is suspected of regularly stealing from the seized narcotics that she tested.

The SFPD and its undercover party-busting cop Larry Bertrand are also accused of harassing nightclub owners and patrons, busting private parties using excessive force and warrantless raids, and illegally seizing computers and other personal items – all while publicly seeking to discredit the Entertainment Commission and seize its power to shut down nightlife in the city, as well as seeking greater authority to roust and threaten vagrants by proposing a law to ban sitting or lying on city sidewalks.

SFPD officials have repeatedly claimed the agency can be trusted not to abuse these new authorities, but the latest revelations about criminal cops highlights how difficult it is for the public or the press to keep tabs on the agency.

The Guardian today sent the SFPD a Sunshine Ordinance request for the names and violations of the officers in question, but if the past is a predicator, it’s likely to be denied with the claim that such records are exempt under the Peace Officers Bill of Rights, a state law with strict privacy protections for cops.

Even defense attorneys who have well-established rights to examine an arresting officer’s criminal and disciplinary histories through what’s known at Pitchess motions are routinely stonewalled by the SFPD, say defense attorneys. For example, attorneys for Arash Ghandan, an alleged victim of Bertrand’s brutality and retaliation, are now having a hard time getting information on the officer’s history. “We are in a battle for Bertrand’s personnel file,” Ghanadan’s attorney, Steve Sommers, told the Guardian. “The city of San Francisco just does not hand over documents without a fight.”

In 2006, former SDPD attorney Reno Rapagnani and his wife, former SFPD Sgt. Leanna Dawydiak, raised the issue of SFPD secrecy, its pattern of routinely shielding problem officers from discipline and public scrutiny, and retaliating against whistleblowers – and were then subjected to a witch hunt that forced them out of the department.

More recently, SFPD and its powerful Police Officers Association succeeded in watering down an early warning system for violence-prone officers, removing a number of triggers – such as resisting arrest and assault on a police officer charges that often accompany cases of abusive police conduct – that had been recommended by a police practices expert and which are currently used in San Jose and other cities. 

Meanwhile, District Attorney Kamala Harris, a candidate for California Attorney General, is also being criticized for the latest scandal. Under the Penal Code, she bears the responsibility for ensuring that her prosecutors are doing background checks on all witnesses and sharing that information with defense attorneys.

"Ultimately, the district attorney has to answer for this. It is the prosecution's duty to check the criminal backgrounds of officers called to testify. That never happened, and as a result, people have been denied fair trials,” Public Defender Jeff Adachi said in a press conference on the issue this morning.

The tough-on-crime era of the 1990s -- when politicians, police, and prosecutors did all they could to create new laws and enforcement powers – is over, and we have a severely overcrowded prison system to show for its short-sightedness. But that mentality continues to guide the SFPD.

Since the arrival of Police Chief George Gascon from Arizona last August, SFPD has undertaken a series of crackdowns, including hundreds of drug arrests in the Tenderloin, raids on marijuana-growing operations in the Sunset and parties in SoMa, citing Dolores Park-goers for drinking, and, on Friday, giving at least two Critical Mass bicyclists tickets for amplified music. He's also said he wants more power to discipline problem officers, but he has yet to show that's anything more than just talk.

Perhaps now it’s time for the pendulum to swing back in favor of restoring damaged civil rights and raising our expectations of the agencies that have such power over our daily lives and freedom. The SFPD should adequately police itself before it looks for new ways to police the rest of us.   

Comments

are BOTH illegal. Why would the SFPD NOT bust large-scale growers of marijuana? The committing of quality of life crimes - things like open drug use and distribution, disregard of noise and nuisance laws, aggressive panhandling (and squeegee men - who are now making an appearance in San Francisco) as well as vagrancy, all are directly related to a rising crime rate and a decreased quality of life.

The Guardian should really be taking on Kamala Harris over this. It's incredible she (and The Guardian) seem to feel her dreadful performance as DA entitles her to the position of state AG, which we all really know is but a way-station for her on her scamper up the political ladder.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on May. 04, 2010 @ 4:46 pm

are BOTH illegal. Why would the SFPD NOT bust large-scale growers of marijuana? The committing of quality of life crimes - things like open drug use and distribution, disregard of noise and nuisance laws, aggressive panhandling (and squeegee men - who are now making an appearance in San Francisco) as well as vagrancy, all are directly related to a rising crime rate and a decreased quality of life.

The Guardian should really be taking on Kamala Harris over this. It's incredible she (and The Guardian) seem to feel her dreadful performance as DA entitles her to the position of state AG, which we all really know is but a way-station for her on her scamper up the political ladder.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on May. 04, 2010 @ 4:47 pm

Addachi is Harris are two bottom feeders.

How exactly these things relate to a fair trial are dubious, if a cop witnesses a crime in progress and that cop once did something unrelated, the guy who did the crime is still guilty. San Francisco isn't some live action gangster film.

Steve is like the guy who gets a speeding ticket and thinks he can get off because the cop spelled his name wrong on the ticket.

Having met a fair number of progressives living here in SF, I seriously doubt most progressives would survive in the lawless eden they seem to strive for. That Steve complains about the cops busting drug dealers in the TL and writing tickets for making noise, then goes on about civil rights is just incredible. I never knew petty drugs sales and annoying people with critical mass was a civil right.

And of course Steve was fine with prop H the handgun law, which would have given SF cops some amazing police powers, he is also in favor of the garbage cops sifting through peoples trash. etc... Are rights are surely safe with Bay Guardian progressives.

Posted by glen matlock on May. 04, 2010 @ 6:13 pm

Addachi is Harris are two bottom feeders.

How exactly these things relate to a fair trial are dubious, if a cop witnesses a crime in progress and that cop once did something unrelated, the guy who did the crime is still guilty. San Francisco isn't some live action gangster film.

Steve is like the guy who gets a speeding ticket and thinks he can get off because the cop spelled his name wrong on the ticket.

Having met a fair number of progressives living here in SF, I seriously doubt most progressives would survive in the lawless eden they seem to strive for. That Steve complains about the cops busting drug dealers in the TL and writing tickets for making noise, then goes on about civil rights is just incredible. I never knew petty drugs sales and annoying people with critical mass was a civil right.

And of course Steve was fine with prop H the handgun law, which would have given SF cops some amazing police powers, he is also in favor of the garbage cops sifting through peoples trash. etc... Are rights are surely safe with Bay Guardian progressives.

Posted by glen matlock on May. 04, 2010 @ 6:14 pm

I believe Tim went crying to the cops when his van got stolen earlier.

Beside are you not dis crediting the chron for this article, is it a good article and if they disappeared where would you get your news?

Posted by Guest on May. 04, 2010 @ 9:11 pm

I admire Chief Gascon for ordering the full screening of 2,000 SFPD Officers. Time to stop the assault on the integrity of the many good cops. Time to come clean on the facts of life regarding the many bad cops. Holding on to SFPD files by the Department when those records should travel to the SFDA is not the way the law works, and since the SFPD works to protect it's own, the gig is up. The party is over. Now the cops who are hired and sworn to serve and protect us all need to do exactly that. We are all San Franciscans first, and Bay Guardians, or Police, or Teachers, or Homeless or whatever - second. When there is violence that is uncalled for, thats it. Zero tolerance. Covering up police abuse of citizens by other police is being a bad cop. Bad cops get fired. There has to be a process, just like with the law. Cross the line, and your out. But the cover up. The cover up. Fajitagate. The cover up of bad cops by secreting human resource files. This is exactly what the SFPD has done, and maybe back for more than 40 years. Where is the honor to the taxpaying citizens of San Francisco with that kind of gang mentality and conduct? Serve and protect. That's what good cops do.

The District Attorney is required to disclose discovery of material facts to the Public Defender. This was not done. The SFPD and the DA have known since 1963 that they are responsible to both live by the law and enforce the law. Negligence is exactly that. Cover up is not incompetence, it is dereliction of duty, to the Citizens of San Francisco and to the others who do their best in their jobs for the City. Good cops don't cover up for crooked cops. That party is over. The gig is up. Time to come clean. The DA came into office on the heals of fajitagate. Here it is again. Hiding police HR records of misconduct, crimes, and illegal violence by bad cops that dished illegal violence out under the color of law. Now real criminals will get new trials, according to the Public Defender. Many cases will be overturned for Prosecutorial Misconduct. The other dimension is the civil suits for wrongful prosecution.

Who is in charge around here? The Mayor is responsible for the conduct of his Police Department. So are the Chiefs of Police. What the Mayor has allowed is Executive Misconduct as Chief Executive of the City. Years after fajitagate and this same old crap is still going on. That is not management. That is mismanagement. The DA is responsible to follow and enforce the law. She missed the boat on that one. Decades of failure to deliver discovery on material witnesses to the Defense is not following nor enforcing the law. That Party is over.

What San Francisco faces now will also be faced by the voters of California on June 8th. Thats not just politics. Thats life. California voters will decide to vote for the second highest Constitutional Executive and whether the candidate for the Democratic Party will be our Mayor or not. After 14 or so years of public service in San Francisco, and after being Mayor during fajitagate, you would think the Mayor would have learned not to allow the misconduct of the SFPD to continue thru to this day. Mayor Newsom allowed the SFPD to break the law and not deliver disclosure to Defense Attorneys in criminal matters. Does that qualify Gavin for State Office? My guess is that the voters of California will vote no. Since the DA has the duty to know the rules of the Courts and violated those rules, does that qualify her for California Attorney General? My guess is the voters of California will vote no.

Integrity is like that. There are good cops and bad cops. What everyone is missing is that there are people around here, who are called citizens, and we get to vote once and a while. Gavin has had since before 2002 - 2003 to correct the coverups going on the his SFPD. That was his job. He clearly did not do the job. Now there are too many cases to count, that were not handled legally because his SFPD did not live by the law. That party is over. The cops may look around and wonder how to keep it going on. That is not admitting the crime of misconduct. Mayor Newsom knew he had to correct that management problem when fajitagate blew up. When the last DA inticted the sitting Chief of Police, one would think that City Hall may wake up to the fact that there is a serious Administration and Management problem at the City Department called the Police. Here is that same problem, years later. Coverup. Secreting Records of Police Conduct. Failure to disclose. Some call failure to disclose - fraud.

Kamala knew when she came to power as our District Attorney that fajitagate was all about the SFPD secreting their records and misconduct. Her job was to deliver discovery. She did not follow the rules of the courts. Does that qualify her for California Attorney General? You are all voters. You decide. I personally am just simply tired of the bob and weave dodge and dart style of politics Mayor Brown seems to train his crew in. Look at the Prop 16 ads the Mayor's client PG&E sends out every week or more. Same old bait and switch, bob and weave, dodge and dart dishonesty the CFR-Democrats are steeped in. Willy Brown has a big crew. But where is the integrity? This is the test of the boomarang.

Posted by Paul Currier, Candidate for DCCC AD13 on May. 04, 2010 @ 11:44 pm

I admire Chief Gascon for ordering the full screening of 2,000 SFPD Officers. Time to stop the assault on the integrity of the many good cops. Time to come clean on the facts of life regarding the many bad cops. Holding on to SFPD files by the Department when those records should travel to the SFDA is not the way the law works, and since the SFPD works to protect it's own, the gig is up. The party is over. Now the cops who are hired and sworn to serve and protect us all need to do exactly that. We are all San Franciscans first, and Bay Guardians, or Police, or Teachers, or Homeless or whatever - second. When there is violence that is uncalled for, thats it. Zero tolerance. Covering up police abuse of citizens by other police is being a bad cop. Bad cops get fired. There has to be a process, just like with the law. Cross the line, and your out. But the cover up. The cover up. Fajitagate. The cover up of bad cops by secreting human resource files. This is exactly what the SFPD has done, and maybe back for more than 40 years. Where is the honor to the taxpaying citizens of San Francisco with that kind of gang mentality and conduct? Serve and protect. That's what good cops do.

The District Attorney is required to disclose discovery of material facts to the Public Defender. This was not done. The SFPD and the DA have known since 1963 that they are responsible to both live by the law and enforce the law. Negligence is exactly that. Cover up is not incompetence, it is dereliction of duty, to the Citizens of San Francisco and to the others who do their best in their jobs for the City. Good cops don't cover up for crooked cops. That party is over. The gig is up. Time to come clean. The DA came into office on the heals of fajitagate. Here it is again. Hiding police HR records of misconduct, crimes, and illegal violence by bad cops that dished illegal violence out under the color of law. Now real criminals will get new trials, according to the Public Defender. Many cases will be overturned for Prosecutorial Misconduct. The other dimension is the civil suits for wrongful prosecution.

Who is in charge around here? The Mayor is responsible for the conduct of his Police Department. So are the Chiefs of Police. What the Mayor has allowed is Executive Misconduct as Chief Executive of the City. Years after fajitagate and this same old crap is still going on. That is not management. That is mismanagement. The DA is responsible to follow and enforce the law. She missed the boat on that one. Decades of failure to deliver discovery on material witnesses to the Defense is not following nor enforcing the law. That Party is over.

What San Francisco faces now will also be faced by the voters of California on June 8th. Thats not just politics. Thats life. California voters will decide to vote for the second highest Constitutional Executive and whether the candidate for the Democratic Party will be our Mayor or not. After 14 or so years of public service in San Francisco, and after being Mayor during fajitagate, you would think the Mayor would have learned not to allow the misconduct of the SFPD to continue thru to this day. Mayor Newsom allowed the SFPD to break the law and not deliver disclosure to Defense Attorneys in criminal matters. Does that qualify Gavin for State Office? My guess is that the voters of California will vote no. Since the DA has the duty to know the rules of the Courts and violated those rules, does that qualify her for California Attorney General? My guess is the voters of California will vote no.

Integrity is like that. There are good cops and bad cops. What everyone is missing is that there are people around here, who are called citizens, and we get to vote once and a while. Gavin has had since before 2002 - 2003 to correct the coverups going on the his SFPD. That was his job. He clearly did not do the job. Now there are too many cases to count, that were not handled legally because his SFPD did not live by the law. That party is over. The cops may look around and wonder how to keep it going on. That is not admitting the crime of misconduct. Mayor Newsom knew he had to correct that management problem when fajitagate blew up. When the last DA inticted the sitting Chief of Police, one would think that City Hall may wake up to the fact that there is a serious Administration and Management problem at the City Department called the Police. Here is that same problem, years later. Coverup. Secreting Records of Police Conduct. Failure to disclose. Some call failure to disclose - fraud.

Kamala knew when she came to power as our District Attorney that fajitagate was all about the SFPD secreting their records and misconduct. Her job was to deliver discovery. She did not follow the rules of the courts. Does that qualify her for California Attorney General? You are all voters. You decide. I personally am just simply tired of the bob and weave dodge and dart style of politics Mayor Brown seems to train his crew in. Look at the Prop 16 ads the Mayor's client PG&E sends out every week or more. Same old bait and switch, bob and weave, dodge and dart dishonesty the CFR-Democrats are steeped in. Willy Brown has a big crew. But where is the integrity? This is the test of the boomarang.

Posted by Paul Currier, Candidate for DCCC AD13 on May. 04, 2010 @ 11:45 pm

Paul Currier, Candidate for DCCC AD13, not a single progressive has held office or worked for the city of San Francisco ever, so nothing thats ever gone wrong in this city can be blamed on them ever, they are pure of heart and the most moral of people ever, they have to my knowledge never pandered to any demographic for votes or screamed racism, sexism, classsism etc... to get their way and silence their enemies while defending the nation of Islam. No progressive ever have ever worked for a special interest and went into politics or left government to lobby for one, they have in no way had a hand in running this city and thats why its such a mess.

We need to hand the city over to progressives who have had no hand in running up until now so that they can straighten it all out, they and their union allies can get this city's fiscal ship in order.

Oddly non progressive David Campos always brags about having been on the police commission, when he is asking for less police enforcement of course, so what is needed is some real progressives on the police commission because as Campos shows, its all just part of the conspiracy big picture too. Serial "public servants" like him are what is wrong with this city, I'm with you, we need some real progressive types on these commissions and on the DCCC board and in higher office. If we have learned anything from the bob and weave politics of non progressives like Chris Daly it is that we need real moral level headed rational progressives in charge.

First thing I want to know Paul Currier, Candidate for DCCC AD13, is should we double taxes or triple them?

Posted by glen matlock on May. 05, 2010 @ 8:31 am

They should be made 100% of every person's income - not including their Social Security and Medicare taxes - therefore actually causing a negative income and ensuring the poor get their fair shake in our city after it being dominated by the rich for so very long.

Those who have negative income can draw on their Swiss bank accounts (after all - we all know the majority of San Franciscans have those) to pay off their debt. If they can't they can volunteer at city homeless shelters to be paid the mandatory minimum wage in order to work off their debt to the city. Alternatively they can sign over their properties to the city to be redistributed to the proletariat in order to satisfy their tax requirements to "the people."

See - everyone gains something from the "100%+ tax NOW!" Steven's proposing.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on May. 05, 2010 @ 12:54 pm

The bottom line is that Kamala is not about progressive values, she's all about her ambition -- doing whatever she thinks it takes to get her herself up the ladder. Her record shows that. Hers is not the record of a prosecutor with a coherent progressive approach to the job.

Consider this: Everyone at 850 Bryant St knows that she generally does not aggressively prosecute violent crime (rape, murder, and especially gang-related violent crime), because of the greater chance of a loss when seeking a tougher penalty -- and having her precious conviction-rate stats mirror that.

At the same time, she has gone full-tilt boogie after small time drug offenders -- yes, including little bitty pot busts. This has involved her full-on cooperation with the cops in their undercover street buys. That doesn't sound very progressive, does it? So why does she do it? Because those are easy convictions (even a SF jury will convict when the offender has sold directly to a cop), that raise her stats while overwhelming the public defender's office with small-time junk prosecutions that are completely ineffective -- given that most of these defendants get released or serve very little time.

She's a disaster, and we should have seen this coming in the way that she unethically and illegally got herself elected -- i.e., spending ultimately nearly $2 million after breaking her binding pledge to remain under the roughly $275,000 limit. The law says that a candidate who knowingly does that should be disqualified. Yes, she paid a hefty fine, but the SF Ethics Commission did not get to hear (thanks to Ginny Vida) the critical evidence that proved she KNEW she was going past the limit.

What we saw in her ties to her Willie Brown was that she would happily take lucrative, largely-do nothing positions on stat panels -- and take whatever "gifts" she thought would benefit herself, no matter whether ethical or not. Her coziness with the Gettys -- showing up at whatever society events would get her a mention in the paper and benefiting from their financial largesse -- was a warning that she would not be about "the people's" justice.

The irony is that despite her thoroughly un-progressive policy on prosecutions (i.e., going soft on difficult violent crime prosecutions while going hard on easy-to-win small-time drug offenses), her stats are still awful -- see this week's cover story in the Weekly. Adachi's defenders, while outnumbered, routinely mop the floor with her assistant attorneys -- who, like her, have an over-inflated sense of their courtroom skills.

The quandry at 850 Bryant Street is whether to support her efforts to become attorney general -- just to get her out of here -- and risk making her a problem of the entire state, or not support her and risk yet-more-years of being stuck with a lousy D.A.

The following story published in the Weekly revealed her cooperation with the cops in nabbing small time drug offenders:

Drug Policy: SFPD's buy-bust operations a costly flop
By Chris Roberts
published: April 28, 2010

Chris Roberts on SFPD's buy-bust
Elaine Mason is no saint — the 52-year-old with no fixed address has been arrested 49 times in San Francisco — but the case that could land her in prison isn't exactly Scarface-worthy. In January, she was walking in the Mission District near 16th Street when a man approached her and asked for a solid (street slang for a $20 rock of crack cocaine).

Mason brought the man to two possible sellers before the pair found a 17-year-old girl who had drugs on hand — except she was a burn artist who sold them "bunk," fake crack. That didn't matter: The buyer was an undercover police officer conducting a "buy-bust" operation, and Mason, who had brokered the deal, was arrested and charged with a felony.

Buy-busts — in which teams of five to 11 undercover officers solicit drugs on the street — are a prized success story for the SFPD and the district attorney's office, according to DA spokesman Brian Buckelew. That's one way of looking at it. The other is that buy-busts are expensive wastes of time that accomplish little other than clogging up the courts with low-level addicts while providing gobs of overtime to narcotics cops, according to senior public defender Rebecca Young. She figures that at least 150 cases like Mason's go through the courts every month.

The buy-bust program rounds up some professional criminals who deal drugs for a living, but these comprise "maybe 1 percent" of the total, according to Young. Meanwhile, she says, this "dirty secret of the criminal justice system" accounts for 40 percent of the cases in San Francisco courts, and contributed to the fiasco at the SFPD crime lab, with overworked technicians forced to test dime bag after dime bag within 48 hours of seizure. These include cases like that of a 30-year-old homeless man who sold a $60 eighth of marijuana to a cop on Haight Street last May, who faces prison time for the pot and the small quantity of psilocybin mushrooms he had stashed in a pocket.

Buckelew admits that addicts are "swept up" in the buy-bust operations. But if there weren't undercover cops doing the stings, gangs from all over the Bay Area might flock to places like the Tenderloin, he says: "It's the strongest tool we have in stemming the drug trade in these communities."

But at what cost? SFPD overtime spending cleared $40 million in 2008 and $30 million in 2009, and much of that, Young figures, goes to cops running buy-bust stings, clocking overtime while on the streets and then earning four hours in court pay waiting to testify in a case over a $20 rock. The SFPD "has to prove this is worth $20 million a year," she says.

Posted by Guest on May. 05, 2010 @ 4:07 pm

The bottom line is that Kamala is not about progressive values, she's all about her ambition -- doing whatever she thinks it takes to get her herself up the ladder. Her record shows that, and I wish the BG would pick on this. Hers is not the record of a prosecutor with a coherent progressive approach to the job.

Consider this: Everyone at 850 Bryant St knows that she generally does not aggressively prosecute violent crime (rape, murder, and especially gang-related violent crime), because of the greater chance of a loss when seeking a tougher penalty -- and having her precious conviction-rate stats mirror that. It's too bad the BG no longer has a criminal justice reporter on the beat, because he or she would have heard plenty about this by now.

At the same time, she has gone full-tilt boogie after small time drug offenders -- yes, including little bitty pot busts. This has involved her full-on cooperation with the cops in their undercover street-buy program. That doesn't sound very progressive, does it? So why does she do it? Because those are easy convictions (even a SF jury will convict when the offender has sold directly to a cop), that raise her stats while overwhelming the public defender's office with small-time junk prosecutions that are completely ineffective -- given that most of these defendants get released or serve very little time.

Those who fall over themselves in lauding her for standing tough with respect to declining to seek the death penalty against a cop killer are forgetting something. That's not a stand of courage in a city where no local jury will hand down a death sentence.

She's a disaster, and we might have guessed this would prove to be the case -- given the unethical and illegal way she got herself elected -- i.e., spending ultimately nearly $2 million after breaking her binding pledge to remain under the roughly $275,000 spending limit. The law says that a candidate who knowingly does that should be disqualified. Yes, she paid a hefty fine, but the SF Ethics Commission did not get to hear (thanks to Ginny Vida) the critical evidence that proved she KNEW she was going past the limit.

What we saw in her ties to her Willie Brown was that she would happily take lucrative, largely-do nothing positions on state panels, i.e. take whatever "gifts" she thought would benefit herself, no matter whether ethical or not. Her coziness with the Gettys -- showing up at whatever society events would get her a mention in the paper and benefiting from their financial largesse -- was a warning that she would not be about "the people's" justice.

The irony is that despite her thoroughly un-progressive policy on prosecutions (i.e., going soft on difficult violent crime prosecutions while going hard on easy-to-win small-time drug offenses), her stats are still awful -- see this week's cover story in the Weekly. Adachi's defenders, while outnumbered, routinely mop the floor with her assistant attorneys -- who, like her, have an over-inflated sense of their courtroom skills.

The quandary at 850 Bryant Street is whether to support her efforts to become attorney general -- just to get her out of here -- and risk making her a problem of the entire state, or not support her and risk yet-more-years of being stuck with a lousy D.A.

Check out “Drug Policy: SFPD’s buy-bust operations a costly flop.” the 4/28/10 story by Chris Roberts in the SF Weekly that revealed Harris’ cooperation with the cops in nabbing small time drug offenders. This story I know for a fact was also tipped to the SFBG, which chose not to follow up.

Posted by Guest on May. 05, 2010 @ 8:15 pm

The bottom line is that Kamala is not about progressive values, she's all about her ambition -- doing whatever she thinks it takes to get her herself up the ladder. Her record shows that, and I wish the BG would pick on this. Hers is not the record of a prosecutor with a coherent progressive approach to the job.

Consider this: Everyone at 850 Bryant St knows that she generally does not aggressively prosecute violent crime (rape, murder, and especially gang-related violent crime), because of the greater chance of a loss when seeking a tougher penalty -- and having her precious conviction-rate stats mirror that. It's too bad the BG no longer has a criminal justice reporter on the beat, because he or she would have heard plenty about this by now.

At the same time, she has gone full-tilt boogie after small time drug offenders -- yes, including little bitty pot busts. This has involved her full-on cooperation with the cops in their undercover street-buy program. That doesn't sound very progressive, does it? So why does she do it? Because those are easy convictions (even a SF jury will convict when the offender has sold directly to a cop), that raise her stats while overwhelming the public defender's office with small-time junk prosecutions that are completely ineffective -- given that most of these defendants get released or serve very little time.

Those who fall over themselves in lauding her for standing tough with respect to declining to seek the death penalty against a cop killer are forgetting something. That's not a stand of courage in a city where no local jury will hand down a death sentence.

She's a disaster, and we might have guessed this would prove to be the case -- given the unethical and illegal way she got herself elected -- i.e., spending ultimately nearly $2 million after breaking her binding pledge to remain under the roughly $275,000 spending limit. The law says that a candidate who knowingly does that should be disqualified. Yes, she paid a hefty fine, but the SF Ethics Commission did not get to hear (thanks to Ginny Vida) the critical evidence that proved she KNEW she was going past the limit.

What we saw in her ties to her Willie Brown was that she would happily take lucrative, largely-do nothing positions on state panels, i.e. take whatever "gifts" she thought would benefit herself, no matter whether ethical or not. Her coziness with the Gettys -- showing up at whatever society events would get her a mention in the paper and benefiting from their financial largesse -- was a warning that she would not be about "the people's" justice.

The irony is that despite her thoroughly un-progressive policy on prosecutions (i.e., going soft on difficult violent crime prosecutions while going hard on easy-to-win small-time drug offenses), her stats are still awful -- see this week's cover story in the Weekly. Adachi's defenders, while outnumbered, routinely mop the floor with her assistant attorneys -- who, like her, have an over-inflated sense of their courtroom skills.

The quandary at 850 Bryant Street is whether to support her efforts to become attorney general -- just to get her out of here -- and risk making her a problem of the entire state, or not support her and risk yet-more-years of being stuck with a lousy D.A.

Check out “Drug Policy: SFPD’s buy-bust operations a costly flop.” the 4/28/10 story by Chris Roberts in the SF Weekly that revealed Harris’ cooperation with the cops in nabbing small time drug offenders.

Posted by Guest on May. 06, 2010 @ 11:50 am

do you have articles on SFPD's Early Intervention System ? any follow-ups to your 2007 article ? Thanks

Posted by Joe5678 on May. 09, 2010 @ 10:12 am

Guest, we've been writing for years about the waste of resources involved in the DA's Office and SFPD focusing on minor crimes: http://www.sfbg.com/2007/10/09/price-sweeps

We're also aware that Kamala isn't perfect, but she's much better than her main competitor for AG, Rocky Delgadillo, a law-and-order type who instituted gang injunctions in LA, whereas Kamala supports rehabilitation and opposes capital punishment. As for this latest tip, I'm the news editor and I didn't get it, but we're always open to good tips, just send them to steve@sfbg.com.

 

Posted by steven on May. 10, 2010 @ 9:25 am

in the story you just gave us a link to. If there's anything in there, it's just a passing reference. Name one major BG story that focuses directly on the problems in Kamala's office. The first significant piece chronicling Kamala's failures -- one dealing with the fact that she won't mount gang murder prosecutions -- ran in 2005 or 2006 -- around the time when gang violence was out of control in the Bayview and the Fillmore. With gang cases, it's near impossible to find witnesses who don't have criminal records, so a prosecutor has to have some courage and be willing to put on problematic witnesses. Again she's afraid to lose and hurt her stats so she generally just doesn't go there. The people who were behind that story getting out could not get through to the BG on the topic, gave up, and went to the Weekly. When she ran in 2003, she claimed Hallinan was lax on gang violence prosecutions, which wasn't true. And at any rate, he was far more aggressive on that front than she has proven to be. The tip re: Kamala coordinating with the cops on small time undercover pot busts was delivered to the BG, but the p.d. who delivered it didn't get anywhere. However, it is true it didn't go to Steve.

Posted by Guest on May. 12, 2010 @ 4:19 pm